By Rachel Belt
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haiti is making final preparations to welcome over the weekend the 11th ministerial meeting of the PetroCaribe country members, the fifth high-profile international summit held in the Caribbean country, which will host in 2013 more major international events than it has in its entire history, officials say.
Pierre Richard Casimir, Haiti's Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Haitian foreign affairs minister, Pierre Richard Casimir, said the Haitian government is ready to welcome 21 delegations from countries that are part of the Venezuelan-sponsored PetroCaribe agreement, which allows member states to pay immediately for 60% of their oil imports, while the remaining 40% is financed at a one percent interest rate over 25 years.
"Hosting the PetroCaribe meeting is a great thing for Haiti that is confirming it can organize major international events," Casimir told HCNN on Thursday.
"In fact, under the leadership of President (Michel) Martelly and Prime Minister (Laurent) Lamothe, Haiti will have hosted, in eight months, more major international events than it has in its entire history," said Casimir, explaining that the country now inspires more confidence to foreign partners and entities.
Haiti will have hosted from February to September this year four significant international meetings, with delegations from several dozen countries in the region, while a G7+ summit was held in November last year.
In February, heads of state and government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) took part in the 24th intersession meeting of the organization in Haiti, while a broader group of regional government delegations attended the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit, held in the country in April.
In June, dozens of representatives from Caribbean, Latin American, North American, European and African countries, organizations and multilateral institutions attended the launch of the Caribbean Aid for Trade Strategy in the Haitian capital, with the participation of the president of the World Bank and representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, among others.
On September 6 and 7, ministerial delegations from PetroCaribe member countries will attend the 11th meeting of its kind that will take place at the luxurious Royal Oasis Hotel in the Petion-Ville district, in the Haitian capital's metropolitan area, to discuss further the PetroCaribe Economic Zone initiative.
The 18-member G7+ group, which aims to give fragile and conflict affected countries a greater voice on the global stage, held its ministerial retreat meeting in Haiti in November 2012, with delegations from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, Central African Republic, among others.
Past Haitian leaders had on several occasions declined to organize such high-profile international summits, fearing the country would not be prepared to pick up such challenges.
The only major international event Haiti had hosted, besides the ones mentioned above, was the June 1995 General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), held at a beach hotel, in the northern area of Montrouis, outside the capital Port-au-Prince.
"We want everybody to know that they are welcome in Haiti to share the great hospitality of the Haitian people," Casimir said."Haiti is honoured to have to opportunity to host such important international meetings and more people want to come or come back because they trust us to take good care of them," he said.